Virginia State Wins First CIAA Football Title Since 1996

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Virginia State wide receiver Jaivon Smallwood (80) is tackled by Winston-Salem State linebacker Terry Ross (6) and junior free safety DJ Bunn (9) during a college football game Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/Winston-Salem Journal, Andrew Dye)

Freshman quarterback Niko Johnson scored a 25-yard touchdown to lead the Virginia State University (VSU) Trojans to a 21-17 win over the Winston-Salem State Rams in the 2014 Central Interscholastic Athletic Association (CIAA) championship on Nov. 15 in Durham, N.C.

The victory marked the first CIAA football title for VSU (9-2) since 1996.

VSU pulled off the championship victory despite giving up a 17-14 lead to Winston-Salem State (9-2) late in the fourth quarter. With the score tied at 14, Johnson was sacked and fumbled the ball, turning the ball over to the Rams at the Virginia State 30-yard line. That set up an easy field goal for Winston-Salem to take their first lead of the game with five minutes left. But Johnson redeemed himself, leading the Trojans down the field before dashing into the end zone for the game-deciding score.

Johnson was named MVP of the championship game, leading Virginia State with 76 rushing yards on 13 carries, and also completing 12 of 19 pass attempts for 125 yards. Winston-Salem junior quarterback Phil Sims completed 15 of 20 pass attempts for 173 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the loss.

In claiming the CIAA championship, Virginia State also clinched a seed in the NCAA Division II playoffs, scheduled to begin Nov. 22.